This is not from the White House. I’ll put that out there first. But, what I’m told is a reaffirmation of earlier reports — Gonzales is not going to be the pick. The caveat as always is that “POTUS is POTUS.” He will do as he wants.
Here, however is what we know we know. The White House (Rove & Co.) attribute much electoral success to conservative energy focused on the court situation. Appointing a moderate or perceived moderate like Gonzales (moderate) or Clement (perceived moderate) would undermine the base and hurt support going into 2006.
We also know that the President does not bow to pressure. While there is lots of pressure for him to appoint a woman, he had the same pressure going into the O’Connor pick the first time; yet, the President went with John Roberts. While the odds are perhaps increased that he will go with a female or minority, those odds are not certain.
What I’m told this afternoon is that the President is leaning towards a particular pick, but has not made up his mind. The vetting process continues. The White House is also weighing its options regarding the pick as to whether it should wait until John Roberts gets on the bench or run two simultaneously. There is a growing sense that it would be politically more effective to have both going at once. Democrats can be expected to hurl the same charges at both, the effectiveness of which would be diminished if they were confronted with two picks at once.
I’m told not to pin hopes or fears on Gonzales or Clement or even Janice Rogers Brown. But, I have also been told not to write off Luttig. Jones is a possibility, but not a probability right now. I’m also told that Corrigan’s name is being floated intentionally.
Lastly, several conservative groups are pressuring the White House to look again at Miguel Estrada. Estrada, who withdrew him name and saw his wife die while he was in limbo before the Senate, had at one time expressed an absolute desire to never be considered again. Sources tell me that in the past few months, Estrada has hinted that he changed his mind and that individuals assisting in the vetting process are aware of this.
Estrada would be an interesting pick. Easily ignored by the press during his nomination for the D.C. Circuit where he was one of many blocked circuit court nominees, a high profile nomination to the Supreme Court would be hard to ignore — particularly the nomination of the first Latino justice. It would rally the conservative base and help move the Latino vote. Nonetheless, like Jones, I’m told Estrada is possible, but not yet probable.
What we know we know is that the President’s mind is mostly made up, but the White House is closely guarding both the timing and the name. Says a friend near the scene, “Don’t be surprised if it is someone whose name has not been widely mentioned.”